LEADERSHIP CHANGES AT major hotel and travel companies continue. They include the departure of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts Chief Financial Officer David Wyshner as well as the two top executives at online travel service Expedia. Extended Stay America reported the addition of three new executive team members, including Bruce Haase as its new president and CEO.
The changes come on the heels of similar announcements this week from Radisson Hotel Group, where President for the Americas Ken Greene stepped down for personal reasons, and Red Lion Hotels Corp. where John Russell, Jr., was named interim CEO following the departure of Greg Mount.
Wyshner announced on Dec. 3 that he would be moving into a senior advisory role reporting to President and Chief Executive Officer Geoff Ballotti until March 1. The company’s Treasurer and Executive Vice President Michele Allen will succeed Wyshner.
Allen has been with Wyndham for 20 years, previously serving as senior vice president of finance and controller for the former Wyndham Hotel Group and senior vice president of finance for Wyndham Worldwide.
Wyshner thanked his colleagues in his parting statement.
“I have enjoyed our teamwork, our culture and our many successes and see this as the right time for me personally to make this transition from the job I was brought in to do back in 2017,” he said.
The resignation of Expedia Group CEO Mark Okerstrom and CFO Alan Pickerill came after they disagreed with the company’s board of director over the direction the company should take in the near future. The disagreement spawned from the results of a reorganization plan launched earlier this year, said Chairman of the Board Barry Diller.
“This reorganization, while sound in concept, resulted in a material loss of focus on our current operations, leading to disappointing third quarter results and a lackluster near-term outlook,” said Diller, who will oversee the company’s executive leadership team and day-to-day operations until permanent replacements can be found. “The board disagreed with that outlook, as well as the departing leadership’s vision for growth, strongly believing the company can accelerate growth in 2020. That divergence necessitated a change in management.”
At ESA, Haase, who has served as a director of ESA’s paired-share REIT, ESH Hospitality, since 2018, succeeded Jonathan Halkyard on Nov. 22. Halkyard will serve as an advisor until Feb. 25.
No explanation was given for Halkyard’s departure. ESA fell short of its earnings per share goal for the second quarter of 2019, finishing the quarter at $0.32 per share rather than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $0.33 per share, according to NASDAQ.com. Last year the company earned $0.35 per share in the second quarter, and its shares have lost about 3.2 percent since the beginning of the year.
Halkyard said during its earnings call that ESA’s shares are significantly undervalued under current prices and had asked the board to increase the company’s remaining authorization to more than $260 million.
“With the review concluded, we expect to return a significant amount of capital to shareholders in the second half of 2019 and in 2020,” he said.
However, Chairman ESA and ESH Hospitality’s boards Douglas Geoga said that while the board had been considering several strategies for improving shareholder value, they had determined that none would provide the desired outcome.
“While the boards remain open to considering opportunities to enhance shareholder value, we are confident in the new management team’s ability to unlock the full potential of the Extended Stay America brand, assets and business capabilities,” Geoga said. “We believe that a focus on property-level improvement, franchise acceleration and asset management, together with the company’s industry-leading margins and free cash flow generation, will lead to enhanced strategic and structural alternatives in the future to drive superior returns for all shareholders.”
Haase served as CEO of WoodSpring Hotels from 2014 to 2016. Prior to that he served in a series of leadership positions with Choice Hotels International from 2000 to 2012.
Along with Haase’s appointment, Kelly Poling was named executive vice president and chief commercial officer and Randy Fox was named executive vice president for property operations.